Cape Town -
A senior traffic officer with the City of Cape Town claims she has been fired for doing her job.
The officer, who has asked not to be named because her case has been referred to the bargaining council, was dismissed in December for gross insubordination after she fined a motorist caught driving without a valid licence.
She lost an appeal to be reinstated and has now complained to mayor Patricia de Lille about the way the matter was handled.
André Adams, provincial secretary of the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu), said the union had received similar grievances from other workers about senior management in the city’s safety and security directorate. “It is a recipe for disaster,” he said.
The traffic officer, who has been with the city since 2002 and has four years’ experience in the traffic services, said she conducted a vehicle check point with two other officers on October 9 in Parow Valley.
She pulled over a Golf, the driver of which said he had left his licence and his identity document at home. A passenger said he was the owner of the car and had given the driver permission to drive it.
But when the owner was unable to provide his licence or the car’s registration papers, she asked him to arrange for someone with a valid licence to take the car to the Goodwood Traffic Department. She also gave the owner a ticket for allowing an unlicenced driver on the road.
But the next day, the officer said she was instructed by her principal inspector to return the owner’s car keys. When she refused, she was told she would face disciplinary action.
After the hearing at the end of October, the officer said she again saw the man driving in the area. When she pulled him over, he reportedly called the traffic department and said: “Chief, here’s this woman harassing me again.”
She was called into the office at the Bellville Traffic Department, and threatened with suspension. Leaving the department, she spotted the motorist again and issued him with a second fine for driving without a licence.
In January, she discovered her principal inspector had personally approached the court to have the tickets withdrawn.
She said her superior had also advised the motorist to lay a criminal charge against her for confiscating his vehicle.
The Cape Argus has a copy of the motorist’s affidavit in which he claims that the traffic officer “got arrogant” and kept shouting at him.
He said she had humiliated him in front of her staff and the community, “using her traffic powers”. The principal inspector had instructed her to hand over his keys after hearing his version of events, he said.
“I never gave this lady permission to drive my vehicle… but she wouldn’t listen to me.” He claimed in his statement that he needed his car for work.
After a disciplinary hearing in December, the traffic officer was dismissed with immediate effect.
The tribunal found that the trust relationship between the city and the officer had been broken after she “wilfully and deliberately refused to follow a reasonable instruction”.
The criminal charge against her had brought the city’s name into disrepute. She should have followed the grievance procedure if she did not agree with her superior’s instructions, ruled the tribunal.
Richard Bosman, city executive director of safety and security, confirmed that the traffic officer was dismissed for gross insubordination and that the matter was referred to forensic services for investigation. As she had appealed against the finding in terms of the city’s collective agreement on discipline, “any comment on anything she raises would thus be premature”.
The matter has been referred to the bargaining council, but the officer said she had not yet received a response from the mayor’s office about her complaint.
Adams said Samwu was concerned that a traffic officer had been instructed to act outside the law.
“Who authorised the fines to be withdrawn? Are officers allowed to give car keys to unlicenced drivers?” he said.
Adams said the city’s actions appear to have forced an employee to transgress the Road Traffic Management Corporation Act and “no one was bigger than the law”. The city was also putting itself at risk of legal action if an unlicenced driver, who had been allowed to continue driving, was involved in an accident.